The 100 best dishes in Shanghai

From staple street eats to mind-blowing molecular gastronomy, here are the city's most brilliant eats for all budgets

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Jianguo 328)
It's no secret that Shanghai is home to some extraordinary restaurants doing world-class fine-dining, excellent snacks and street eats and vegetarian food that'll make you question whether you ever need meat (not to mention the brunches...). Whatever your budget or palate, we've got you. Here's where to take a stab at Shanghai's best dishes.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Shanghai.
diner
Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Gold Standard Pancakes
Not your average diner stack, this over-the-top treat from Austin Hu’s gentrified diner sees fluffy pancakes decked out with hazelnut butter, Ferrero Rocher, bacon and fried banana. 78RMB.

Mushroom toast
Sitting atop a slice of wheaten sourdough spread with a thick layer of herby ricotta, a mound of buttery mushrooms are liberally doused in truffle oil and topped with a perfectly poached egg and sprinkling of fresh thyme. 58RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Shakshouka
Two runny eggs are engulfed in a rich tomato sauce – that’s spiked generously with chilli – and ready to be mopped up by a wedge of pillowy challah bread in Bread etc’s brilliant rendition of the Middle Eastern poached egg dish. 62RMB.

Bacon, egg & cheddar bagelwich
A hangover cure for the ages, a chewy bagel is stuffed with bacon, fried egg and gooey cheddar cheese. Add avocado (10RMB) and a glug of the BYFO Green Machine hot sauce for good measure. 45RMB.

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Photograph: courtesy Brut Cake Café

Chicken and waffle
A perfectly crispy and fluffy waffle stacked high with tender and savoury fried chicken, well-spiced and complemented with the sweet strokes of candied walnuts and jujube honey. 78RMB.

Fried and baked dim sum platter
With delightfully flaky pastry, this wonder-trio of BBQ pork, black pepper venison and abalone and matsutake puffs is pure bliss. 298RMB (as part of four-course brunch set).

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Complète galette
RAC’s Breton-style galettes are brunch perfection on a plate (rivalled perhaps by its breakfast sandwiches, but that’s another story). Parisian ham, cheese and a brilliantly orange egg front and centre. 45RMB.

Croissant aux amandes
Much more than just an almond croissant, this hulking pastry is closer to a pie than anything,  filled generously with frangipane and showered with sliced nuts. 20RMB.

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Photograph: Cat Nelson

Avocado toast
Before you judge, just wait a second – this isn't any ordinary #basic avocado toast (not that there'd be any shame if it was). As with everything at Daliah, there’s a delightful twist from the norm. Set on a thick slice of dark German bread, avocado mash seasoned with garlic, lemon and a touch of chilli support two sunny-side-up eggs and crumbles of goats cheese. House-made granola is strewn about enthusiastically before the whole thing is garnished with microgreens. 69RMB.

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Photograph: Annie Lin

Açaí bowl
This smoothie bowl gets an all-natural sweetness from a base of frozen açaí berries (imported from Brazil) and frozen bananas, plus heaped toppings of strawberries, blueberries, banana, coconut flakes, chia seeds, edible flowers and house-made granola. 32RMB (small); 45RMB (regular). 

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Scallion oil noodles
A Shanghai classic done right, wheat noodles are oil-tossed with tangles of caramelised scallions and crowned with delicate shrimp. 18RMB.

Wanza xiaomian
Tender noodles, fragrant greens, creamy peas, braised beef and just enough heat and numbing flavour. 12RMB.

Scallion oil pancake
You'll queue for anything up to two hours to get your hands on one of Ada's congyoubing, but it's worth it. Cash only. 7RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Mini Lemongrass Carnitas Banh Mi
A brilliant take on the Vietnamese classic with tangy carnitas spiked with a sweet tamarind aioli. 78RMB.

The Inverted Philly Dip
Philly cheesesteak meets a French Dip: amazing. 98RMB.

Jianbing
This old Beijing-style jianbing is chewy and crunchy in all the right ways. The wheat flour pancake is topped with an egg, fermented soy sauce, a brush of chilli and a sprinkling of sliced scallion and sesame seeds, before it's wrapped with a crisp baocui at its centre. 7RMB.

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Photograph: Annie Lin

Rou yuebing
Meat mooncakes are unlike their sweet counterpart in every way. Somewhere in-between a baozi and xieke huang, the juices from the meaty filling of this Shanghai snack seep into the flaky pastry as it bakes until golden. 4RMB.

Wontons
There's always a line, and they stop selling these at 10am. Go early to get these seriously hearty xiaohuntun.
8RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

White pizza slice
A firm-but-chewy crust and a base slathered with parmesan cream and coated in mozzarella and dollops of ricotta. ’Nuff said. 25RMB (per slice); 195RMB (20-inch pizza).

Sesame noodles
A bowl of noodles drenched in thick sesame paste with a slick of chilli oil for a bargain price. 10RMB.

Baozi
Babi Mantou
A perennially popular and super cheap breakfast snack (though great eaten at any time of the day), these steamed buns are stuffed generously with fillings from pork and preserved veg to bok choy, tofu and mushroom to black sesame. Babi Mantou also has hundreds of stores all over the city. From 1.5RMB. 

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Photograph: courtesy Glam

Truffle’d Cheese Toasties
This unassuming bar bite is packed with a decadent punch from truffle and tangy cheese that belies its humble appearance. 52RMB.

Red oil wontons
Meaty wontons without too much skin but plenty of delicious, hot and numbing Sichuan flavour. 22RMB.

Ubiquitous Truffle House-made Fries
Passing the litmus test of a good fry with flying colours, these crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside chips were good enough on their own, and then they made it even better with truffle. 48RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Shengjianbao
The traditional Shanghai style of fried soup dumpling – pillowy soft up top and perfectly crisp on the bottom. 8RMB for four.

Yellow croaker noodles
The huangyu mian from this Ningbo hole-in-the-wall are well deserving of their fame. White flakes of croaker fish float atop a rich, salty broth bathing a bed of noodles. 26RMB.

Xiancai banmian
This famous Shanghainese noodle joint pulls in huge crowds through its lunchtime sittings for its freshly pulled noodles tossed with xiancai. 12RMB.

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Photograph: Cat Nelson 

Deep-fried hargow
48RMB

Crab xialongbao
The delicate dumpling skin of Jia Jia's xiaolongbao encases a steamy fragrant crab soup. 99RMB for 12.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Beef tartare 
The wizards in the kitchen at RAW – and by wizards we mean heartthrob Juan Campos and team – take simple ingredients and turn them into something magical. For the tartare, finely sliced Chilean wagyu is served on a bed of crushed ice with smoked egg yolk and a shallot and onion garnish. Accompanied by bread crisps and a side of fries, it’s more than enough to share between two or more as an appetiser. 128RMB.

Fine de Claire oysters
A side of lemon, shallot vinaigrette and ginger ponzu sauce bring these famed oysters out of their shell. 198RMB per dozen.

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Photograph: courtesy Jean-Georges

Egg Caviar
Jean-Georges takes the humble oeuf to a whole new level (and price point) with its signature Egg Caviar. Presented in a shell, silky scrambled egg is topped with vodka-whipped cream and capped with a healthy spoonful of caviar. 388RMB; 88RMB (happy hour).

Octopus
Firm but tender octopus tentacles come coated in gochujang – sweet, spicy and tasting a bit like rice cracker snacks from 7-Eleven, in a very, very good way. 118RMB.

el willy
Photograph: courtesy El Willy

Salmon TNT
This is an explosive bite you'll want to savour. A crisp bread pocket is filled with sour cream and topped with Balik salmon and truffle honey. 108RMB.

Creamy Button Mushroom with Bread
The simple button mushroom never tasted so good. Served in a rich, béchamel sauce, earthy sautéed mushrooms are piled generously around a perfect runny egg yolk with shavings of parmesan and thick slices of toasted baguette for dipping. 88RMB. 

Patatas bravas
A classic done right, thick cuts of fried potato are loaded up with a lightly spiced tomato sauce and creamy mayo. 45RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe 

Vitello tonnato
An off-menu dish, the visually arresting vitello tonnato (a traditional Italian surf and turf pairing of veal and tuna) offers a charcoal-black-edged round of melt-in-your-mouth, milk-fed veal with a quenelle of tuna mousse, flanked by a bold stripe of squid ink. 118RMB.

Molecular xiaolongbao
This is chef Alvin Leung's (also of Daimon Bistro) signature dish. Imagine a classic soup dumpling with the flavour turned up to 11 and all in one lightning-quick explosion. Part of 1,680RMB set menu.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe 

Mussels
Plump mussels bathe in a creamy Thai-style coconut and chilli broth with a garnish of basil. 148RMB.

CSB
Demon chef Alvin Leung has pulled some Dr Frankenstein-style moves, mashing up a pineapple bun with a classic barbecued pork bun. The result? Some kind of ultra-buttery, insane indulgence. 32RMB (two pieces).
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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Minced pork curry katsu sando 
Xime
It doesn’t get much better than a meatball with a curry centre... except if you make a sandwich out of it. And there’s bacon. A blend of possibly the world’s most delicious meat, minced pork belly and caramelised onions, the patty is stuffed with curry, breaded and deep-fried. 50RMB (lunch set).

Jalabeef bagelwich
Boom Boom Bagels
A kickin' combo of beef shin, jalapeno, chives, parsley, vinegar, Tabasco, cheddar, spicy tomato, butter and cream cheese are wedged between two halves of chewy bagel. 60RMB.

Signature Butao ramen bowl
Butao Ramen
A Hong Kong ramen chain with some serious credentials, Butao's signature bowl sees a thick and luscious base of creamy tonkotsu (pork bone) soup served with a large sheet of seaweed and an egg on the side. 68RMB.

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Photograph: Kenny Ong 

Xiaoguo mixian
Served piping hot in a small copper pot, Yunnan rice noodles (mixian) bathe in an addicting hot-and-sour soup made from Yunnan herbs and pickled mustard greens, tender rice noodles, minced meat and green veggies. 38RMB.

Sea of Dreams
The Ferrari of poke bowls, this slick dish packs a whole lotta punch: salmon, Hokkaido scallops, salmon roe, tobiko roe, cashews, avocado, scallions, seaweed salad and pickled cucumbers are piled high on a mound of sushi rice and liberally coated in the fishmonger's signature Dynamite sauce. 118RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Youpomian
Zhu Que Men
Served in a portion fit for two, chewy and fresh-from-the-boil hand-pulled belt noodles are tossed in oil and topped with a blend of chillies, spring onion, garlic, bean sprouts and bok choy. Add a splash of vinegar and soy sauce, stir well and tuck in. 20RMB.

Molten Oppa Love sandwich 
The Molten Oppa Love is a grilled cheese and then some. Oozing gruyere, cheddar and mozzarella are sandwiched between two buttery slices of wholewheat sourdough, topped off with smoked cola ham and kimchi for an extra kick. 55RMB.

Nikkei Sensation bowl
Take your pick of base (grains, greens or noodles) and protein (chicken, salmon, tofu and more), slather it in a creamy sriracha sauce and load it up with avocado, pickled cucumbers, edamame and wakame seaweed. 65RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Tuna melt 
Crisp and golden brown sourdough, a fresh and punchy tuna salad and a thick coating of gooey swiss and cheddar cheese make this tuna melt pop. 49.99RMB (regular); 64.99RMB (large).

Double Char burger
Habit Burger
38RMB.

New York Corned Beef Reuben sandwich
A classic done right: a toasted challah bun is crammed with house-brined and smoked beef brisket, tangy sauerkraut, silky melted cheddar and a 'secret' Reuben sauce. 78RMB.
_90A9757 copyPhotograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Crab gold noodles
With the insides of 12 crabs (six female, six male), salt and a sprinkling of gold flakes, Cejerdary’s Xie Huangjin – literally ‘Crab Gold’ – is the stuff of simple and straightforward extravagance. Expect a queue.
1266 Kaixuan Lu, near Anshun Lu. Hongqiao Lu. 360RMB.

Stir-fried shrimp, ham and bamboo
Perhaps Ningbo’s best-kept secret, the fried bamboo slivers in this dish are basically crack, mixed up with cured ham, shrimp, gingko nuts and a shower of sugar. 78RMB.

Coconut hotpot
Salt, coconut water and chicken – that's the hotpot base. After you’re done cooking with it, don’t ditch the pot like you would at any other hotpot place. 138RMB; 198RMB (whole chicken).

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Photograph: Cat Nelson

Lobster wellington 
595RMB.

Roast fish head with scallion
Hidden under a mound of crisp, charred scallions and liberally doused in oil, the fish head at Jesse’s is a signature worth returning for – again and again. 228RMB (pre-order only).

Nang chao rou
Wedges of  flatbread are stir-fried with fatty chunks of mutton, onions, and a heavy coating of Xinjiang spice mix. 68RMB.

Jiaomaji
Photograph: Kenny Ong

Jiao ma ji 
A mountain of tender chicken, tofu, wood ear mushrooms and green onion sits in a thick pool of chicken stock mixed with numbing pepper oil. If you’re a numbing pepper addict, this dish is going to be the one that does you in. 69RMB.

Wood plank salmon fillet
Taking campfire food to a whole new level, an orange-pink slab of salmon is slow-smoked over a fire pit. The result is a piece of fish that’s all sorts of succulent, smoky and just all kinds of swoonworthy. 398RMB (quarter); 788RMB (half); 1,388RMB (full).

Fish in the Josper oven
Velvety halibut gets a kick from a drizzle of spicy parsley and garlic oil and a smoky finish from a turn in the Josper oven. A whole fish, this dish is great for sharing. 198RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Whole baked turbot 
‘Whole turbot filled with brown butter sauce’ sounds so innocent, but it’s a devil of a dish. Liberally doused in a lemony browned butter sauce, this flaky fish will linger in your mind for days. 238RMB.

Crispy mandarin fish
A dish also known as 'squirrel fish' – allegedly for its 'squirrel'-like appearance – the white fish is deboned and cut in a crosshatch pattern before being battered and deep-fried (which is when it gets that bushy 'tail' look). It's then liberally covered in an auspicious-red sticky sweet and sour sauce. 328RMB.

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Photograph: Cat Nelson 

Black truffle pizza
There's a reason this is Mercato's moat popular dish. A three-cheese mix (mozzarella, fontina and Parmesan) is sprinkled on top a layer of Italian truffle paste before an egg is cracked into the centre. After it's pulled out of the oven, the whole thing is showered in shavings of fresh black truffle, producing a fragrance so redolent that should be bottled and sold as Mercato's signature scent. 218RMB.

Braised and fried chicken
40RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

‘Mapo’ spicy tofu with pig brain
Silky tofu arrives coated in a vibrant red sauce studded with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and pig brain. 53RMB.

Seriously Beefy
Pie Society’s steak and ale pie takes tender pieces of steak, carrot and mushroom, braises it all in a hearty beef stock with Guinness and then wraps it all in a hot and flakey pie crust. 55RMB.

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Photograph: Cat Nelson

Typhoon shelter-style corn 
A riff on a Hong Kong icon (typhoon shelter crab), this lucky dip of a dish hides chunks of fried corn beneath a thick blanket of crisp garlic crumbs with scallion, black beans, chillies and coriander. 88RMB.

Beijing duck
For Peking duck to rival the capital, Xindalu has got your number. Cooked in the upscale restaurant's wood-fired oven, the duck is crispy and juicy in all the right places. 238RMB (half).

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Photograph: courtesy Gemma

Pesto pizza
This brilliantly simple pizza takes one of Gemma's signature Neapolitan-style bases (characterised by their cloud-like crust), covers it in a blanket of crème fraîche, and tops it off with delicate slices of prosciutto, lashings of herb mascarpone and homemade basil pesto. 120RMB.

Dry spaghetti verrigni ‘oro’
368RMB.

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Photograph: Amy Snelling

Bone marrow, orecchiette
Chewy, ear-shaped orecchiette are coated in a rich, long-simmered ragù sauce and served with fabulously unctuous roasted bone marrow. 168RMB.

Hongshao rou 
18RMB.
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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Crispy Date 
Super sweet and fatty, these dates are exceptional, served alongside roasted cauliflower, turnip, curry and cocoa, each playing off brilliantly against the bright grassiness of celery fronds. 75RMB

Beetroot quinoa burger
The plant-based burgers at this health-focused vegetarian restaurant (there's even a strict no-frying policy) are signatures. Vibrant, fresh and packed with flavour – served with a lick of vegan mayo, smashed avocado, pickle, tomato and a muddle of organic sprouts – the quinoa and beet burger easily holds its own against its beef counterpart. If beets aren't your jam go for the portobello mushroom and pineapple burger (58RMB). 52RMB. 

D.O.C
Less is more with this delightfully simple pizza that relies on three key ingredients: DOP buffalo mozzarella, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. Bellissimo. Insider tip: go for the late-night menu from 10pm Thursday to Saturday when all pizzas are 100RMB. 150RMB.

WuGuan
Photograph: Cat Nelson

Treasure Box 
118RMB.

Biang biang fried tempeh
Not the imposing bowl of belt noodles you might expect when you see 'biang biang' on a menu, but just as delightful. 26RMB.

Vegan macaroni
Cashew sauce is the creamy secret behind this light macaroni salad side. 18RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Falafel wrap
Eli Falafel
There’s falafel and then there’s falafel. Eli’s is the latter – with a crisp outer layer that conceals a fluffy, herby centre. For this dish, the chickpea patties are wrapped together tightly with tomato, pickle, parsley and a lashing of creamy tahini inside Lebanese flatbread. 40RMB.

Sweet and sour veggie spareribs
Vegetarian Lifestyle
These sticky morsels are everything a sweet and sour sparerib should be, just minus the meat. 38RMB.

Aloo okra massala
A blend of stir-fried potato and okra, this punchy and fragrant side dish is made to be mopped up with roti.
55RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Fried goats cheese
Fried with salt and chilli, you'll be popping more pieces of this undeniably moreish cheese than you thought your stomach could stand. 26RMB.
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Photograph: courtesy Ginger

Coconut sago with pandan ice cream and palm sugar meringue
The Southeast Asian island of desserts, chewy coconut sago pairs perfectly with satin-smooth pandan ice cream and a feather- light meringue. 58RMB.

PBJ (peanut ice cream, red fruit and salted peanut caramel)
62RMB.

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Photograph: courtesy Highline

Lemon chiffon cake
88RMB.

Snack Pack cookie
Bringing the best of the snack world together, the Snack Pack is a mix of Oreos, caramel, crisps and pretzels in one seductively gooey cookie. Available online at strictlycookies.com or via the official WeChat store (search 'StrictlyCookies'). 70RMB (five cookies).

Eduardo’s Flan
Lusciously rich and creamy, it's easy to see why owner Eduardo Vargas' signature burnt caramel egg custard has been in play for over a decade. 58RMB.

M's Famous Pavlova
Photograph: courtesy M on the Bund

M's Very Famous Pavlova
Scaling ambitious heights, M's rendition of the simple-to-make-but-hard-to-master dessert is presented as a gleaming tower of tropical fruits piled atop a fluffy cloud-like interior and a magically crunchy meringue crust. 108RMB.

Lemon & Lemon Tart
It might look simple from the outside, but don't be fooled – this Paul Pairet creation takes days to make. Whole lemons are meticulously hollowed out over a period of 72-hours before being filled with a tart mélange of lemon chantilly, lemon sorbet, lemon ice cream, lemon curd and segments of grapefruit, orange and lemon, before it's served with a chopstick-sized sablé biscuit to help cut through the tang.110RMB.

Brownie peanut butter milkshake
Insanely thick and disgustingly rich (in the best way), this milkshake packs in over-generous servings of peanut butter, chunks of brownie and house-made chocolate ice cream. 55RMB.

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